Monday, December 26, 2005

A Life-Saving Idea From Some Maryland Parents

This sure sounds like a fantastic idea to me:
The parents of a Silver Spring teen who died of a heart condition are launching a campaign to put defibrillators in all Montgomery County public schools.

Rita and Richard Helgeson are joining a growing number of parents across the country who want to encourage local officials to make the machines available at schools.

Some medical experts say defibrillators can save people in cardiac arrest with a jolt of electricity that can restore a person's heartbeat to its normal rhythm. The portable machines cost $1,800 to $2,000. They are becoming increasingly common in such public areas as malls and health clubs.

Andrew Helgeson, 18, was not at school when he died. Still, his parents think the machines could help prevent deaths on school campuses. The American Heart Association estimates that the devices could prevent at least 20,000 deaths each year.

Rita Helgeson said the Gregory W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund, named for a student athlete from Pennsylvania who died at school of sudden cardiac arrest, has promised to donate a machine to Montgomery Blair High School, where Andrew attended.

"This has been a very important issue for us," she told The Washington Post. "Andrew would not have wanted another child to die of sudden cardiac death."

Montgomery school officials said they have no plans to place defibrillators in schools. Brian Edwards, a schools spokesman, said officials are concerned about the cost and liability. But he said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue officials are working with a panel to examine whether the machines should be placed in public facilities.

The Helgesons are determined.

"We need to have them there. (Sudden cardiac death) can happen at school or on the field," Richard Helgeson said.

Sandy Canfield agrees. The Burke mother of three led a similar campaign in Fairfax County after her 15-year-old daughter, Danica, died after going into cardiac arrest during crew practice at Robinson Secondary School in 2002. The campus had a defibrillator on site, but apparently no one at the school was aware of it, Canfield said.

"It's like having fire extinguishers," she said. "They're there, and you hope you never need to use them."
As is all too often the case with ideas generated outside of the EduCracy, this idea is meeting with EduCratic resistance not because it isn't good for kids or staff, but because of its relatively modest cost and issues of "liability."

In response to the concerns raised by district spokesman Edwards, couldn't several people at each school be trained to use this life-saving technology? And while we're on this subject, many schools such as ours in California's "Imperial" Valley have no school nurse on site. Wouldn't it be a good idea for each school have at least two individuals on site with the most current Red Cross First Aid training? This training isn't all that expensive and it could very well save the life of a student or adult.

Ed's Note to the
folks in the administrative suites of Montgomery County Public Schools: Passing the buck to your county's Fire and Rescue folks doesn't address this potentially life and death issue. Wouldn't a better response to the parents' suggestion have been, "That's an interesting idea. We'll put the question to the governing board and see what they think at their very next meeting."

Just a suggestion from a lowly classroom teacher.
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